16 thoughts on “Slick, Oily Phrases: Government Takeover, We Want Our Country Back

  1. Newt says:


    It was Obama’s Minerals Management Service that issued the rig the “Outstanding Drilling Operations and Perfect Performance Period.”

  2. Newt, nice try.

    An exemption from worst-case scenario planning, the short-cutting of environmental impact research, and a complete lack of enforcement on any kind of effective disaster planning were all done while Obama was a senator. The people running the MMS were appointed by the Big Oil-friendly — I would less delicately say Big Oil-fellating — Bush administration.

    Saying this disaster can be blamed on Obama is like saying the Iceland volcano can be blamed on Obama. You know, it happened when he was president.

    I have plenty of criticism of the Obama administration’s response to the crisis. Too slow, too timid, letting BP get away with not providing information, not shutting down every other similar rig in the Gulf, not grabbing the BP CEO by the neck and making the company comply, having the dimmest of dim bulbs Ken Salazar oversee this, and on and on.

    But Bush sowed this whirlwind — and we are all now reaping. Or it is reaping us.

  3. GM paid back the straight-up loan from the government, but the people have not been paid back in full: http://reason.com/blog/2010/05/04/gms-bailout-payback-claims-unt

    Actually, the bailout doesn’t strike me as a particularly creative way to bail out a business. The company was sucking wind; the government heaped money on it. Seems entirely uncreative. Does it seem to have saved the company for now? Sure. Does that automatically make it a purely good idea, from a political philosophy standpoint? No.

    So you’re not likely to see all the crow eating you’re hoping for.

  4. Mike Kennedy says:

    Bruce: I’m with you on the same old pab being repeated — “Democrats are trying to take over private industry” but then you go and throw another canard out there……..the “big oil is evil, yada, yada, yada.”

    Big oil exists to give us what we want and need — power — and tons of it. Power through its product to run our cars, planes, boats, buses, military machines and everything else we use. Big oil and big coal have helped make this the richest nation in the history of civilization.

    And it’s not just for power that we use petro. It’s used in clothing, cosmetics, shoelaces, milk jugs and literally hundreds of products.

    We may not like it and it does have adverse effects on the environment, but let’s be real. We are not going backward and neither are China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Russia or any other developing country, much less the developed ones.

    The hydrocarbon industry exists because to give us what we want and need — so it far cheaper than any other source – and do it at a reasonable profit. The average oil company boasts about a 9 percent profit margin, about the norm for American businesses.

    Without oil and coal, we wouldn’t have any of the modern conveniences we have today that make life so much easier, productive and enjoyable.

  5. Newt says:

    The part that doesn’t wash with me is that BP will pay infinitely MORE in lawsuit settlements and cleanup than it would have with such things environmental impact research and so on.

    Please explain BP’s incentive in having this spill?

    How do they “win” by allegedly shortcutting regulations, etc.?

    To buy Bruce’s theory, one would have to believe that BP had no interest in avoiding a spill. That simply isn’t rational.

  6. BP has no incentive to have the spill, Newt. But the size of their profits will outstretch any cost of paying for the spill. Especially when Big Oil got a supine congress, both parties, to limit liability to a tiny $75 million, I think it was. So BP has no incentive to have a spill, but they have no incentive to take expensive measures to avoid one either. So they build in the cost of remediation, and the cost of lobbying — just part of doing business.

    Mike, I agree that oil and coal give Americans what they want. I fault all of us for not taking energy issues seriously enough. And I fault our leaders for being unequivocal chickenshits.

    I’m heartbroken that we have been ruining the planet with only small changes in habit and law since the environmental movement raised my consciousness in the 1960s. Had we started then taking seriously the dangers of mining and drilling and depending on whack-job foreign dictators and sheiks, we could be drilling and mining far less today.

    Our behavior has changed some. We recycle. Lisa and I each drive hybrids. But we drive too much still, use too many plastic bottles, and on and on.

    Jimmy Carter tried to get us to turn down our thermostats and got laughed out of DC. Teddy Kennedy, running against Carter, said once or twice that we Americans can’t have everything we want in terms of energy use — that lasted a week or so until profligate voters made him take those commie words back. And back away he did.

    Even Richard Nixon understood that energy independence was essential to our national security.

    Too many of us say drill and mine so we can use energy in outrageous amounts in America. Had we, as a nation, committed in 1970 to alternative energy, we wouldn’t be facing disaster today. Let the Chinese and Indians go their way — we could be leaders in getting off the hydrocarbon needle. But instead we nibble around the edges and suck up energy like fiends.

    Our public policy and tax structure have favored oil and coal over alternatives. It’s an unconscionable, unsustainable position. And the Gulf is bleeding because of all of us.

    This is now personal — Lisa and I bought a house on a tidal pond that connects directly to the Gulf. We might have a lovely home with ospreys and manatees as neighbors, or we might be living in a dead zone. It’s all up to the currents. And to the liars who run BP, and to the spineless politicians in DC.

    But I have been a strong environmentalist since the Sixties no matter where I live, and it breaks my heart to see where we are, how little distance we’ve traveled toward balance with the Earth and our global neighbors.

    No matter where we live — this is now personal to all of us. This is the big one. This is the wake-up call, or the death knell. No one gets out of this unscathed.

    Drill Baby Drill is the cry of cosmic idiots.

  7. PM says:


    I think the answer comes down to the old issue of short term versus long term profits. Note i am not saying that BP are bad or evil people–I am saying that the market rewards short term thinking–ie. and investment to create long term safety versus the short term hope that you won’t need to do this. I think that this is an example of a market failure–the potential long term costs of an accident are not sufficiently built into the short term cost estimates of the decision to drill baby drill.

    BP and its employees and execs get rewarded on the short term rise in quarterly profits, etc.

  8. Mike Kennedy says:


    I applaud and respect your environmental priorities. I think most people prefer a clean planet. What we have yet to figure out is how to do it as cost effectively as we can. Perhaps starting all the research back in the 1960s and 1970s would have had us much farther along than we are now.

    However, every major source of power has limitations from solar to wind to ethanol to everything else we have considered.

    Environmentalists oppose clean forms of energy such as nuclear, which France uses without a lot of problems. It’s going to take decades before we have viable alternatives to oil and coal. To foster the idea that America will be energy independent and free of oil and coal anytime soon is just wishful thinking at best and outright lying at worst.

    Our policies favor oil and coal because of the economics of these sources, not the politics. Period.

    We consume so much energy because it has been so abundant. The same principle as health care. The more a desirable good or service there is, the more that gets consumed. Want to limit people’s use of power through energy sources? Well, good luck with that. We like our cold beer, reliable cars, warm homes, international vacations via jet planes and all our gizmos and gadgets too much.

    1. “However, every major source of power has limitations from solar to wind to ethanol to everything else we have considered.”

      Wouldn’t the ideal solution be a mix of solutions? No dependence on any one energy source. We don’t need to come up with some sort of ubiquitous system that will be the next oil-refinery-gas station-combustion engine infrastructure.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Yep, Mike, you are right. Currently, our energy mix is about 40 percent oil, 25 percent natural gas, 25 percent coal and 10 percent nuclear. Oil is down from north of 45 percent in 1973, while natural gas is down and coal use is up, and so is nuclear. But when it comes to important parts of our economy like container ships, trucking and jets, there is simply no viable alternative to oil for as far as the eye can see. I’m not saying that’s a great thing, just the way it is.

    2. Mike Kennedy says:


      As a side note: Did you know that government intervention, regulation and control set back the growth of the natural gas market (clean burning and efficient) and helped coal supplant natural gas as the second leading energy source in the U.S.

      Yep, Sen. Byrd, looking out for the coal companies, led passage of the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act and Natural Gas Policy Act back in the late 1970s. The Fuel Use Act prohibited use of gas for electricity generation, and the Natural Gas Policy Act created levels of pricing control — this led to more coal plants being built.

      Now Congress finds itself trying to impose a cap and trade system to limit pollutants from the very same industry it helped foster. Meanwhile, the potential of natural gas and liquified natural gas grows by the day, and the U.S. is sitting on some of the largest projected natural gas resources in the world.

      This regulatory stupidity is chronicled in the new book “Power Hungry: The Myths of Green Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future,” by energy writer Robert Bryce.

  9. Newt says:

    The short-term argument is semi-plausible, but insufficient.

    I argue that BP has have every incentive to make rigs safe and function properly.

    The Exxon Valdez is nothing that any oil company wanted.

    I submit that for many people, the notion of “accident” is truly outside your comprehension. It certainly is for Congress. It is also beyond the comprehension of of plaintiffs’ attorneys.

  10. PM says:


    in any organization there are complex and often conflicting incentives–the lawyers want to reduce liability, sothey urge the CEO to use mushy speak, the PR people want the CEO to be forthright and open, so they urge a different set of talking points, the regulatory people want to make certain that all of the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed, the production people want everything done yesterday, the bean counters are concerned only with coming in under budget, etc., etc.

    besides, following up on your point about “accidents”, the only way to ensure that there is never again another oil spill is for us to give up all oil production, and we know that isn’t going to happen. There is somewhere an optimum risk/reward balance for society as a whole, but that balance/point is constantly shifting and moving. It is different for all of us, just as the incentives for each individual employees of BP are different–but there is an aggregate, organization wide point.

    All of this sturm en drang is about policy entrpreneurs ( concerned citizens, if you prefer) trying to use this disaster/opportunity to shift the societal risk/reward balance point in one direction or another. And BP and the other producers (Halliburton as well) will all have to adjust to whatever the end result is.

  11. Newt says:

    The naysayers continue to drive cars and fly on planes. Where is the limit of their outrage?

    1. PM says:

      Come, come, come–trying to call people out for hypocrisy–from one who calls himself Newt?


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